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Nara - Another Old Capital where Japan's heart is still alive
Long before Kyoto started to flourish as Japan's national capital of Heian-kyo in 794, there was another place where, in fact, the foundation of Japan had already been established. That place is Nara, another ancient capital, which has so much to offer that have remained unchanged for over 1,300 years.

Winter Wonders in Nara

Kasuga Wakamiya Onmatsuri at Kasuga Taisha Shrine (Dec. 15-18)

Procession of the Kasuga Wakamiya Onmatsuri

The middle of December is the time of the Kasuga Wakamiya Onmatsuri festival in Nara. The Onmatsuri, whose origin dates back to 1136, is an annual festival dedicated to Wakamiya Shrine, one of the sub-shrines of Kasuga Taisha Shrine. Originally, people welcomed the spirit of the deity of Wakamiya to Kasugano in Nara, holding a big celebration to wish for a good harvest in the coming year and for the peace of the nation.

Since then, for nearly 900 years, the Onmatsuri tradition has never ceased to this very day. The festival takes place from December 15th to 18th and it is designated as a National Important Intangible Folk-cultural Property. For more information, visit Kasuga Taisha Shrine's website: www.kasugataisha.or.jp

Appreciating the Beauty of Winter Peony at Sekko-ji Temple

Winter peony at Sekko-ji Temple

Sekko-ji Temple has an incredibly long history since its foundation in the late 7th century. The temple, also known as the Temple of Flowers, is located at the foot of Mt. Nijo where the dignified Taima Temple stands. What makes Sekko-ji Temple famous are the splendid peony flowers in winter grown with great care by the head priest. These gorgeous peony flowers bloom from late November to the beginning of January showing off their vibrant color and beauty from under straw covers. Sekko-ji Temple: sekkouji.or.jp

Mt. Wakakusa Fire Ceremony (Jan. 27)

Mt. Wakakusa Fire Ceremony

Mt. Wakakusa is a 342-meter-high mountain. From the observatory, a panoramic vista of Nara City welcomes observers with a view of a number of historical assets. The most wellknown and important event for Mt. Wakakusa is the ''Yama-yaki Fire Ceremony.'' Nara's representative Buddhist temples and Shinto shrine (Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Todai-ji Temple, Kofuku-ji Temple and Kinpusen-ji Temple,) make a prayer together for the ancestors and for local, national and world peace regardless of religious beliefs.

At 18:15, gorgeous fireworks adorn the winter night sky before the fire ceremony begins. This is such a magnificent view of large colorful fireworks blooming across the dark sky. Finally, at 18:30, the fire is released on the mountain and quickly spreads over its entire surface while ascending to the night sky with people's wishes. www.visitnara.jp/venues/E02004

Elegant Ice Flowers Blooming on Mt. Miune

Beautiful Ice Flowers on Mt. Miune

On Mt. Miune, on the prefectural border of Nara and Mie, is a vast space called Hacchodaira. The superb views from the summit are loved by mountain climbers throughout the year. From January to February, when temperatures drop to the lowest of the year, visitors can enjoy muhyo, or ''icy fog'' which is rarely seen in the Kansai region. When temperatures fall below zero, moisture and fog on the tree bark freezes and creates such a beautiful sight as if they are art works of icy flowers. The frozen trees sparkle magically in the sunshine.

Access to Nara from Kyoto

By JR Train, take the Miyakoji Kaisoku Express (approx. 45 min.)
To learn more about Nara, visit official English websites